A federal judge in Tennessee has declined to reconsider his refusal to order the American Bar Association to grant provisional accreditation to the Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan ruled on April 2 that Duncan had not presented any new evidence or arguments that would justify its request. Duncan sued the ABA in December, just days after the organization announced its denial of provisional accreditation for the school.
Varlan reiterated that Duncan has not exhausted the ABA’s appeal process or demonstrated that its suit was likely to succeed on the merits.
Hulett “Bucky” Askew, the ABA’s consultant on legal education, declined to comment. Duncan Dean Sydney Beckman did not respond to calls for comment. The school opened in Knoxville, Tenn., in 2009.
The fight between Duncan and the ABA dates to Dec. 20, when the ABA’s Council of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar informed the school that it was rejecting its application for provisional accreditation. The council cited concerns over Duncan’s compliance with three accreditation standards, pertaining to strategic planning; academic standards and achievement; and the academic credentials of incoming students.
Two days after that decision was made public, Duncan filed suit, accusing the ABA of violating antitrust laws and asking for an injunction forcing the organization to grant its application.
Varlan denied the school’s request for injunctive relief on Jan. 18 in a 43-page ruling. The next day, Duncan filed a formal appeal with the ABA. It filed a request for reconsideration with Varlan on Feb. 8, arguing that the ABA misrepresented the nature of its appeals panel to the court. The school argued that the appeals panel was constituted following the council’s denial of provisional accreditation, not before — as it said the court has been led to believe.
Duncan claimed that the timing meant that the appeals panel was “merely a surrogate for the underlying deciders” and that an appeal within the ABA would be futile.
That argument didn’t go far with Varlan, who wrote that he had not based his earlier decision solely on the timing of the appeals panel’s formation, and that Duncan hadn’t shown that the panel was merely a surrogate for the council.
At the ABA’s request, Varlan stayed the litigation until May 3, when the appeals panel is scheduled to decide the matter. Varlan also denied the ABA’s motion to dismiss the case without prejudice, leaving open the door for the ABA to refile that motion 21 days after the stay is lifted.
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